10 October 2018

Malawi: Key Population Dying in Silence - Manerela

Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected with HIV and Aids (MANERELA) has expressed concern with the abuse key population or minority groups continue to face in the country.

The remarks were made in Mangochi during a dialogue and interface meeting with religious leaders and some members of the LGBTI community and key population at large aimed at persuading the servants of God to embrace those who belong to minority groups.

The concerns by MANERELA followed the revelation by one of the members of the LGBTI [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex] community based in Mangochi district who told the gathering that he faces numerous abuses.

"People see me in a different way than how I feel. I look like a man because I have male organs but ever since I was born I have always have female feelings and up to now I feel ok when I am amongst or I make love to a female," said the LGBTI Peer Educator who opted for anonymity.

He therefore revealed that in his daily life, he faces various forms of discrimination.

"Every time I reveal that I am a member of the LGBTI people call me all sorts of names but what can I do.

? I didn't chose to have female feelings despite havng male organs therefore my appeal to the general public is to stop abusing us" he said.

Commenting on the matter, Manerela Project Officer Harold Kachepatsonga said: "It is a pity that some people opt to victimise people who are within the key population instead of welcoming them and drag them to the right path".

He added that as Manerela, they continue to organise such meetings with religious leaders and members of the key population in "an attempt to save who others label as the lost souls, satanists, witches and other names"

Kachepatsonga said ignoring or discriminating people who are within the key population for example LGBTI and prostitutes can result into further spread of HIV as well as number of people dying of HIV/Aids pandemic.

He said currently there are no systematic national level strategies to reduce violence against LGBTI members and the key population at large.

In 2015, Malawi as a member of the United Nations (UN) made a commitment to take effective measures to address issues of violence against LGBTI/Key Population.

Even the National HIV policy and Strategic Plan also tackles issues of LGBTI that includes improved and quality access to health services.

Finally Kachepatsonga said lack of understanding among the religious leaders towards sexuality, sex human rights and sexual reproductive health is also another challenge.

"Prostitutes, LGBTI members are all human beings and just like any other human beings they deserve equal treatment. You can agree with me that faith leaders, traditional leaders, politicians are among those who can play a great role in transforming lives of people that is why we are fighting hard for equal human rights. Through continued awareness campaign and dialogue we believe we can bring change" he said.

One of the participants at the meeting said the meeting was of great importance.

"This meeting is very productive as we have been drilled on how best to help anyone the world feels he or she is a shame. We have also learnt that we need to open up and welcome members of the key population. We were all created in the omage of God and we need to understand that others are in their present situation not by wish" said the Sheikh who opted for anonymity die to the nature of his job at one of the religious grouping.

Meanwhile, MANERELA has called upon the donor community to pump more resources to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO,s) to help in educating the masses about human rights more especially targeting the key population.

The interface and dolialogue meetings carried out by MAERELA are conducted with funding from ARCAS Foundation.

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